The Dark Genius of the Short Story
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The Dark Genius of the Short Story
Many authors have made great contributions to the world of literature. Mark Twain introduced Americans to life on the Mississippi. Jack London told of the courage of many on the Alaskan Frontier. Another author that made an influence on literature is Edgar Allan Poe. Poe is known as the father of the American short story. To understand the literary contributions of Edgar Allan Poe, one must look at his early life, his literary life, and a summary of two of his famous works.
Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 19, 1809 (Stern xi). He was born to a southern family that was in a traveling company of actors (Marks 2). His father, David Poe, was from a Baltimore family. He was an actor by profession but his family would say he made a career out of drinking, not acting. Soon after Edgar Allan Poe was born, he left his family. Poe's mother, Elizabeth Arnold Poe, was a widow at the age of eighteen (Porges 32). Two years after his birth, she died of tuberculosis (Stern xi). When his mother died, Poe was adopted by John Allan (Stern xi) at the urging of Mr. Allan's wife. In 1815, John Allan moved his family to England. While there, Poe was sent to private schools which he described as dark, ancient, labyrinths (Stern, Edgar Allen Poe Visitor for the Night of Time 42).
In the spring of 1826, Poe entered the University of Virginia. There he studied Spanish, French, Italian, and Latin. He had an excellent scholastic record, but he got into difficulties almost at once. Mr. Allan did not provide him with the money to pay for his fees and other necessities. Poe was confused and homesick. He learned to play cards and started drinking. Soon he was in debt over two thousand dollars. Poe discovered that he could not
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depend upon Allan for financial support. His foster father refused to pay his debts, and Poe had to withdraw from the University (Haines 62).
In May of 1827, Poe enlisted in the army as a common soldier. He did this under the name of Edgar A. Perry (Porges 43). He was stationed on Sullivan's Island in Charleston Harbor for over a year. Poe adapted very well to military discipline and quickly rose to the rank of regimental sergeant major. After a while, he got tired of the same daily routine involved in military life. Poe wrote regularly to Mr. Allan. He met with Mr. Allan after the death of Mrs. Allan in February of 1829. With Allan's support, he received his discharge and enlisted in West Point on July 1, l830 (Stern xii). While at West Point, Mr. Allan, who had remarried, continued in not providing Poe with enough money. Poe decided to have himself kicked out of school. Cutting classes and disregarding orders were his solutions (Porges 44). He was court-martialed for neglect of duties in January, 1831, and left West Point the following month (Stern xii).
Poe was great in three different fields , and in each one he made a reputation that would give any man a high place in literary history. Poe wrote great short stories, famous not only in his own country, but all over the world (Stern, Edgar Allen Poe Visitor from the Night of Time 12).
Hawthorne, Irving, Balzac, Bierce, Crane, Hemingway and other writers have given us memorable short stories; but none has produced so great a number of famous and unforgettable examples, so many tales that continue,
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despite changing standards to be read and reprinted again and again throughout the world (Porges 15).
Poe was the father of the modern short story, and the modern detective story (Porges 19). In 1831, Poe succeeded in publishing a new edition of his poems entitled, Poems. Poe was now in great difficulty. He went to New York, but could find no job there. Eventually he took refuge with his aunt, Mrs. Clemm, in Baltimore. There he decided to seek employment and make his living by writing. Failing to get attention with his poems, he decided to start writing short stories. Poe competed in a contest for the best short story in 1831 (Stern xii). The prize was offered by Phil-Saturday
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Edgar Allan Poe, Burtons Gentlemans Magazine, Eliza Poe, MS. Found in a Bottle, The Masque of the Red Death, Grahams Magazine, The Raven, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Gold-Bug, Southern Literary Messenger, Poe, Edgar Allan Poe bibliography
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